Thursday, May 16, 2019

Otherworldly



It has been a month since I came back from Argentina. It has also been a month since I have been trying to put my impressions from my fantastic time there on paper. I get stuck on the same sentence for more than two hours. I write paragraphs just to erase them at the end of the day. This obvious writer’s block, of course, could seem as the most frustrating and infuriating feeling in the world, especially for someone who thrives — who has always thrived — on words. The right words. But truth of the matter is that for the first time in my life, I stare at my blank page — and not being able to find them feels right; because I know in my heart that no matter how I will spin it, it will only eclipse what I unearthed. As simple, or as complex as it may sound, I found my truth in Argentina.

The second largest country in South America was the last destination on my bucket list. The original bucket list (the well, as long as long as I live, is infinite). I dreamt of it. I longed for it. And even when I finally set the planning in motion, it was only until I saw the boarding sign blinking that I perceived reality. When my family was preparing for my eighteenth birthday moons ago — the famous ‘debut’ in Filipino culture, in other words, the day one becomes a woman — my mother wanted me to choose a quote that would, to some extent, chronicle my visions, my character — my life. I smirk today because in hindsight, asking this from a teenager seems preposterous — notwithstanding, I remember taking the task seriously because Who am I? is, all things considered, the question we spend our lives answering. Then, I deemed Eleanor Roosevelt’s “The future belongs to the those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” to be the tailored-made answer. I am nearing thirty-four now; and if I could pat my younger self on the back, I would. She deserves it. I dreamt. I pursued. I believed — and this future, at least some bits of it, is now carved into my story, my character — my life.

Deciding on the countries that end up on one’s bucket list has always been a fascinating concept to me. It says a lot about a person. Dreams, more than facts, reveal the most about a person. Not implying that the entire world does not deserve a visit — but I trust that we are drawn to specific places based, actually, solely on who we are. Not curiosity. Not discovery. — who we are. New York spoke to the street poet in me. Israel spoke to my spasmodic faith. The Trans-Siberian spoke to my dragged-out journey. Japan spoke to my quirks and last but not least, I was confident Argentina would speak to my fiery, unfiltered self. Not only have I loved these unfamiliar territories even before setting foot there, but I also had this intangible, deep-rooted instinct that I had to go there. As if I already knew I would find a sense of home. As if I knew I would find a piece of the mosaic. More importantly, I cannot shake off the feeling that the timing for these adventures was always just that — appropriately timed. In sync with my state of mind. In sync with that stage of my life. And Argentina was no different. 

Have you ever seen anything like this? Memories past, like the pages of a flip book, rushed through my head. Red. Nuances of red. Mountains of love stretching as far as the eye can see. Impossible to contain my smile in the face of such majestic beauty, as candid as one can be, No, no, I have not. Rationally speaking, the dramatic scenery of Jujuy and Salta in Northern Argentina is of course “the product of a complex geological history, including above all marine sediments, lake and river movements elevated with the movement of tectonic plates” (https://www.earthstartsbeating.com). From a writer’s point of view, however, the better — and only valid explanation is that God, the natural artist, bursted with love on that day — and felt like painting. A work of art. A masterpiece. I have been fortunate to have lived in some of the most incredible mountainous regions in this world. With its postcardesque panorama, Switzerland spoiled it for me from the onset. Austria spoon-fed me as well. Norway, then, upped the ante with its whimsical fjords. Unquestionably, the hometowns set the standard high in terms of defining towering beauty; but it is only in the middle of Purmamarca, Humahuaca, Tilcara, Maimara and Quebrada de las Conchas that I finally understood, every ravishing, divine, bold creation -- in art or otherwise -- is the result of a heart that can bleed -- and mine does. Mine always does.  "Any life is made up of a single moment, the moment in which a man finds out, once for all, who he is." -- Jorge Luis Borges. 

Red. Nuances of red. All my life, I have had to cope with the ramifications of my emotional outbursts. I am the happiest I will ever be and I am handicapped from sadness. I know no middle ground. Too much -- I heard it one too many times, I tried to defy it twice as often and in the months before I flew to Argentina, it had become something that I wanted to water down. Completely. I initilially flew to Jujuy to witness the Salinas Grandes, which did not disappoint at all — the salt flats are miraculous; but little did I know that those remote provinces were home to the most otherworldly creation in the world. There I was, far away -- both physically and mentally -- from everything I had ever known, the furthest I had ever been in my life, detached, stripped down — and I unearthed things that I never knew existed, or rather, that I always knew existed.  For this fiery natural fresco reflected exactly who I was. Who I am. How could I forget: who I want to be . As unkind as it is at times, it truly is, my temperamental nature is also the reason see beauty as intensely as I do. The reason that I can feel joy the way I do. The reason that I write the way I do. And in the end, that I love the way I do. To the point of madness. It is a strange feeling to talk about dreams in the past tense today. I set them free, in the process, I set myself free. And truth is, my truth, is that I am a heart that will always break easily. Let the light in. 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Monday, March 25, 2019

Stealing from eternity



My friend of nearly twenty years was flabbergasted at the sight of my miniature coffee tattoo when we went for, well, coffee two weeks ago. You only notice this baby now?, relying on the premise that I had absolutely told her when I had it done three years ago. After long deliberation, some quirks and memory lapses confessions, she and I finally settled that I did, in fact, forget to mention it. It is gorgeous, she rejoiced. You know what you should do? Add a miniature cigarette right next to itCoffee and cigarettes — my morning ritual; for me, the soul mates per excellence; and my faithful associates for every piece I have ever written. For every great piece I have ever written. I will never give up coffee, I giggled. That is forever; until my skin turns to dust. But I cannot get a cigarette tattooedespecially that I plan to quit. Completely. Sure, I failed until now but it will happen. One day. Then, she said something that still makes me stare into nothingness today — and smile. Well, even if — when you do quit, and the joyful agony -- or agonizing joy -- of a lit cigarette will only be but a beautiful memory... Notwithstanding, you would still love it, won’t you? You cannot regret a part or time of your life, even if it does not last. 

I never believed in love at first sight until, of course, it happened to me. Truth of the matter is that it remains a mad concept in my eyes despite (or because of?) the reality that I am a living proof of its existence. It was the night I was not supposed to leave the comfort of my home. More importantly, it was the night I did not feel like going out at all; but the ever-lasting withholding dance with my posse, naturally, resulted in my defeat, Okay, one drink. We sat at the bar and I forced myself to have fun which, almost unconsciously, I did end up having. Pretty good company breeds good; and even though the one drink policy is, as everyone knows, the biggest lie we will ever tell ourselves; that night, I stayed true to my word. Well... Almost. I was ready to pay and head out when my friend, due to the loud music, shouted it my ear, Turn around, the man of your dreams is standing right behind you. I rolled my eyes. Come on. But turn, I did. And God knows I have not stopped spinning ever since.

The moment I locked eyes with him remains that one thing that still makes me stare into nothingness today — and wonder. For instantly I knew that that millisecond would split my life into two; that from then on, there would be a before and an after. That in this fucking crazy world, there is that One person that you can — and will — love ’til death do me part. I was done. This fateful moment got tattooed on my heart on a crisp autumn night ten years ago. I marvel. Ten yearsIn 1995, Before Sunrise, long before Before Sunset and Before Midnight rounded off the trilogy, breathed life into my ‘idea’ of love. It was filmed in Vienna. I lived in Vienna then. I see a connection there; but little did I know that I would go on well into adulthood and live my, somewhat, own version. Albeit that just merely two days ago, he managed to convince me that we were indeed a weird, yet unmistakable rendition of Jesse and Celine. I giggled. 

I trust that it is in my bones to have an inkling for momentous, yet eternal passionate love -- especially in art form; then again, we are all aware that life itself is unlike any stupendous film, song, painting or epic poem. For all the reasons known to mankind, we do not work. Routine betrays us. Values do not mesh. Visions differ. Real life does not do us any favour. We tried so many times over the past decade, only to have honestly given up on the probability — or possibility — or hope that maybe, just maybe, we do belong together somewhere down the road. Well... Almost. The first time we said good-bye was the hardest thing I ever had to go through. It felt all kinds of wrong granted that, in hindsight, it was of course the right thing to do. That is my definition of heartbreak: putting back pieces together that do not fit. Then, life happens -- as it should; and I kept reminding myself that he was not the right one as every Girl Code magazine would beckon. Thus, life happens as it should. You move on. You do love again. You can get your heart broken again. Each time you think you can no longer recover from yet another disappointment, funnily enough, God has a fantastic way of pulling out a surprise. Time wounds all heals.

But the thing is, the thing is, while experience, maturity, good conscience -- all the rational things indubitably narrow everything down to life's most precious lessonthe art of letting go; still I contemplate, if after the first time — and nth time, he and I still wind up staying in each other's lives -- I ask even the most romantic or skilled -- or doomed wordsmith: what, in the end, is love? From where I am standing, I came to the conclusion that it is still utterly impossible to truly pin down what happens when you fall in love. Madly in love. Selflessly in love. I write. I tried. Just the same, I cannot find the words that could explain why I love him. Still love him. Always have, and always will. 

This is a journey that does not have the happy ending as we would like to read. Yet it still bottles something quite... spectacular. Arresting. Out of this realm. "If there is any kind of magic in this world... it must be in the attempt of understanding someone" (Before Sunrise). He knows my soul and I know his. Essentially, there is little else that matters. At the end of the day, or when my skin will turn to dust, I will rest assured that I did love someone unconditionally, beyond reason, beyond words. It was love at first sight once I locked eyes with him. I knew it then, I know it now. Ten years on, and I have stopped fighting it, forevermore. We are the love that steals from eternity. We are the kind that have lived different versions of ourselves through the years, but always find a way to return to our favourite spot, the Ex Bar. Laughing. We are corny like that. For us, sporadic lasts. Momentary is permanent. My longtime friend's statement simmers in the back of my mind: “Even if — when you do quit [...] Notwithstanding, you would still love it, won’t you? You cannot regret a part and time of your life, even if it does not last.” Well, not in the classic sense at least. Ultimately, not all of us will have a fairy tale, but that does mean the story is any less magical. The saying rings true. Some people do live under your skin. I adore my tattoos. Each time I look at the ten (and counting) of mine, I smile. I can never regret them. I will not regret the One tattooed on my heart.

Usually, the books I pick up end up twice their size after I am done -- 'thickened' with notes, underlined passages, penned emoticons and if the read is that good -- countless pages marked by a folded corner. My favourite French Literature Professor once told me that the 'masterpieces' of your life are the books you can -- and will -- read again every couple of years. Whether you feel exactly the same or see it in a new perspective will not matter -- only the fact that you bookmarked it will. I guess I could not agree more. Love can be described, but never explained. I write. Here, I try. 

For writers, nothing is ephemeral. For writers, what makes you feel alive lives on forever.



Saturday, March 23, 2019

A page folded at the corner




I just ordered 
My third cup of coffee
After all, I am in good company
Words spilled before me.

Could they have known —
I will always look for
The smell of old books
In this digital world.

Words, my words,
My heart treasures
To put pen to paper.

Time is unkind
For a writer,

Nothing is ephemeral.

You are
A page marked by a folded corner
A love I will come back to
In the future. 



Thursday, March 14, 2019